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- The process of gathering information to expand your knowledge about a job, career, service and/or geographical area by talking to people.
- The development of a professional support system to help you as you mature as a professional that, in the future, will help you to support others.
Benefits of Networking
- First-hand and current information allows you to learn what happens on the job beyond the understanding provided through course work or other outside research. This is beneficial not only for personal understanding but may make you a more impressive candidate.
- A perspective of work that goes beyond the limitations of job titles, allowing one to see what skills are required for the job and how you might fit into that work setting.
- Informational meetings and conversations are comparatively low-stress (when compared to interviewing for a job), and this process allows you to gain confidence in talking with people while learning what you need to know.
- Because you are only asking for information, you are in control of the interview. You decide what questions to ask and evaluate the
- information you are given for personal use.
- You craft a network of contacts that may be helpful in the future.
- You have an opportunity to meet with potential employers before the more stressful (for both of you) job interview.
- You are exposed to a variety of jobs and personalities of companies/agencies making the search for your "niche" that much easier.
- You have the opportunity to learn where you might fit into a particular organization.
Finding Networking Contacts
Talking to people and learning from their experiences doesn't have to be a formal process or one you practice only when job hunting. There are numerous resources available enabling you to pinpoint the people you'd like to contact.
- Wheelock alumni are an excellent source of information and you are guaranteed to have at least one thing in common: Wheelock. This link creates a less stressful atmosphere in which to interview and therefore, a more informative opportunity.
- Professors. They can be a wealth of information about specific disciplines they have encountered through their research or community involvement. Faculty are also often a good resource for those considering attending graduate school.
- Friends, family, supervisors, co-workers, coaches and acquaintances. Chat with people casually--on a plane or bus, while waiting in lines, at social gatherings, etc. Join a professional organization in your field and get involved. Most people enjoy talking about the work they do. Curiosity can open a lot of doors.
- People you've heard about: lecturers, employers, prominent people in the community, etc.
How to Contact Someone for the First Time
- The most common method of making the first connection with a networking contact is in writing. Either an e-mail or a brief letter is acceptable. In some circumstances, with a family friend or former employer for example, a phone call is fine.
- It is preferable that an introductory letter be typewritten.
- Enclose a resume so the person knows your background, and send it to his/her business address. Write to the home address only if no business address is available.
- Your letter should include: a brief introduction about yourself, the fact that you are a Wheelock student; why you are writing to this individual; a brief statement of your interests or experiences in the person's field, organization, or location and why you want to talk. Be straight-forward; tell him/her you are asking for information and advice. Do not ask for an internship or job.
- Ask for fifteen minutes to a half-hour of the person's time.
- The last paragraph of the letter should always include a sentence about how and when you will contact this person again. THEN MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW-UP! Usually this involves a phone call to set up a phone appointment or an in-person meeting. Never expect the person to phone you.
- Proofread all of your correspondence.
What to do During a Phone Conversation or In-person Meeting
- Be polite and charming! Aside from the expected common courtesy, you never know who this person knows or what type of resource they may be for you in the future. Dress professionally for your meeting as a sign of respect. Consider each person you talk with part of an ever-expanding network of contacts, and make a good impression in the hopes that the person will welcome you into their network as well.
- Ask good, appropriate questions. You should expect to have about 10-15 questions ready to ask for a half hour conversation. You may not get to ask them all, and other questions may come to mind during the conversation itself, but at least you will be prepared if the person provides only short answers.
- Typical networking questions
- How did you get interested in and get your start in this work?
- Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in ?
- What do you do in your job? What is a typical day? (What did you do yesterday, today, tomorrow?)
- What is the necessary or recommended education or training?
- How did college prepare you for this job?
- What do you like and dislike about this job (organization)? Why? Do you find it exciting or boring? Why?
- How has your job affected your lifestyle?
- What are entry level opportunities?
- What is the salary range, both entry level and higher? Is there a ceiling?
- What are the prospects for advancement?
- What are the different jobs in this field or organization?
- What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
- What position is best for learning as much as possible?
- Is there any type of training program? What skills are necessary and what experience?
- These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits, values). Where would they fit in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they fit in other organizations?
- How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
- Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and what is it? (Is it a people, service, or product oriented business?)
- Can you suggest reading material that might give me further insight into this field (organization)?
- Who else would you recommend that I speak to for advice?
- Really listen to what the person tells you. Although you are actually in charge of the interview, you should be prepared to talk half of the time and listen the other half. If the person wishes to talk more, you will know that immediately. Just be prepared with things to talk about and have solid questions. Also, be prepared for the person to ask you about your interests and experiences -- they surely will.
- Take notes. While it is important to maintain eye contact during in-person meetings, taking notes also demonstrates interest in what the person is saying. Make sure you write the person's name and the date on your notes so that you can refer back to them, either for your own purposes or when having a follow-up conversation with that contact.
- Keep the conversation relatively short. Whether you are talking by phone or in person, respect that the other person has many demands on his/her time. If they are available or wish to give you more time than you have requested, they will let you know. Be aware of the time that has passed and when there is a break in the conversation near the end of the time you requested, thank the person and politely end the conversation. If you are meeting in person, ask the person for a business card so that you can send a thank you note.
- Don't forget to say "Thank You"!! Send a thank you note!
After Your Conversation
- Send a thank you note immediately. Hard copy letters are much appreciated but e-mail notes are also acceptable. Personalize your letter by referencing something from your conversation that was particularly helpful. If the person referred you to another friend or colleague, state your plan of action for contacting that person.
- Review and evaluate the conversation. Go back over your notes to make sure the information is clear. Also, make note of any impressions you have from the conversation. Ask yourself: What did I learn from this interview (both positive and negative impressions)? How does what I learned fit with my own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.? What more would be helpful to know? What plan of action can I make?
- Contact people referred to you by the person you spoke with. Make sure to immediately mention the mutual contact as well as any particular reason why the person you originally spoke with thought this new person might be helpful. Remember to abide by all of the above rules regarding timing, etiquette, and thank you notes.
- Keep your contacts informed. If your original contact referred you to someone who was helpful, send him/her a quick note with that information. Likewise, if a particular resource or research avenue was fruitful, let the person know that as well. Networking contacts -- especially Wheelock alumni -- are often sincerely interested in helping if they can and are curious about what ultimately happens in your career adventures.
Must Ask Questions
- Ask about their career path.
- Share your interests/skills and ask about opportunities in their field.
- Ask about general job-search strategies.
- Ask for additional contacts and permission to use their name as a referral.